My STEM Units

Friday, February 20, 2015

Every Kid in a Park

Yesterday, President Obama announced a new initiative that will put 4th graders and their families in national parks.

Fourth graders and their families will have free access to all national parks and federal lands for the entire 2015-2016 school year.  The initiative is intended to get students outside and "put down the smartphones".  The initiative is intended to continue for 12 years, so all the incoming 4th graders will be able to experience the parks for the next 12 years. 

At a time when congress is debating the re-authorization of "No Child Left Behind", we are entering a new era of No Child Left Inside.  Yes, it is important to teach our children to read and do math, but does it always need to be inside?  I have championed "No Child Left Inside" for the last 10 years.  I looked at my classroom as our base camp.  We came together there, set our purpose, gathered resources, and then set outside.

For Math, we went on Math Walks; looking for shapes on the playground.  Suddenly the bars on the monkey bars are now transformed into parallel lines!  That seam in the sidewalk is magically a perpendicular line!  With a simple line drawn with chalk, that line in the sidewalk became examples of acute angles or obtuse angles.  A walking field trip to the local grocery store was a Math lesson, as the students had to complete a PBL assignment while there.  

Although we didn't read as much I would have liked outside, our adventures always sparked new interests in informational texts when we returned to base camp the classroom.  I never had to coerce my students to read.  Students were so much more animated when reading about worms, dirt, wildfires, etc. after a trip outside.

National Park Service celebrates their 100th anniversary in 2016.  To help celebrate, I have compiled a list of resources for teachers and parents.  My National Parks: Treasure for Teachers series offers a myriad of resources and opportunities for teachers and classrooms.